Lost Luggage Credit Card Protection and The Lack of Coverage When Using Frequent Flyer Miles

Jul 15, 2013

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There are many things that can go wrong on a trip – especially one that spans numerous countries and involves trains, planes, automobiles and even Icelandic horses.

By far the most common travel trauma however, is lost luggage. With more fees and better tracking technology (and less people checking bags), it mystifies me that airlines still manage to lose suitcases, from time to time. Low and behold, even Team TPG is not immune to that predicament and TPG Managing Editor Eric found himself missing his luggage while flying on Air Berlin from Warsaw to Keflavik International Airport in Iceland this week via Berlin Tegel.

There is nothing more infuriating than losing your luggage.
There is nothing more infuriating than losing your luggage.

Eric’s itinerary included  WAW-TXL-KEF, and although he made it there safely, sadly his bags did not. While his luggage has been thankfully located – and is apparently in Dusseldorf – he was informed that there will probably still be a few days delay between Eric’s arrival and that of his bags.

With just a hoodie and temperatures in Reykjavik falling by the minute, we thought through what Eric’s options might be since he needed to pick up a few items of clothing.

Credit Card Coverage
As I pointed out last week in a post about credit card trip coverage, many credit cards offer all kinds of protection from lost luggage to car rental insurance. So we called American Express since I had booked Eric’s ticket for 10,000 American AAdvantage miles on AirBerlin and paid the taxes and fees with my Premier Rewards Gold.

The Premier Rewards Gold card does have a good lost and delayed baggage policy, which states:

“We will pay a benefit for the Replacement Cost, up to $500, for each Covered Person on a Covered Trip for Loss of checked Baggage. (Bicycles are covered when checked as Baggage with a Common Carrier Conveyance.). But in order to invoke it, the entire cost of the ticket must be paid for using the card, then the cardholder is eligible for baggage insurance protection. If the flight was booked on flyer miles, it is not eligible for baggage insurance protection.”

But he was out of luck there since this was an award ticket. Not only that, but only the primary cardholder, additional cardholders or his/her dependents (spouse or children up until age 23) are protected, even if the cardholder purchased the ticket for someone else at full fare.

When it comes to Chase cards such as the Sapphire Preferred, their policy states:

“If your checked bags are delayed for a period of 18 hours or more by a common carrier, you can be reimbursed for the emergency purchase of covered essential items. Carry-on or checked luggage is covered if lost or stolen when you purchase your common carrier ticket using your Chase Sapphire Preferred card.” So since this was booked with miles and the whole flight wasn’t charged onto the card, this wouldn’t apply.”

The Citi policy for cards such as the Citi ThankYou Preferred card states:

“Lost Luggage Coverage provides up to $3,000 in coverage for you and your dependents when you charge your entire air, bus or rail transportation fare with your Citi ThankYou Card prior to departure. This benefit covers permanently lost, stolen or damaged baggage or personal articles checked with an air, bus or rail transportation company. Rental vehicles, taxicabs, limousines, or government owned or operated public transportation systems operating within an exclusive metropolitan area are not included.” Again, since this ticket was booked with miles, it wouldn’t apply.

Lastly, looking at Barclaycard’s policy for cards such as the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard, the policy states:

“We will reimburse up to the Daily Benefit Amount of $100 per day for 3 days in the event of a Baggage Delay. This travel insurance plan is provided to Barclays Bank World Master- Card cardholders, automatically when the entire cost of a Common Carrier passenger fare(s) is charged to a World MasterCard account while the insurance is effective. It is not necessary for you to notify Barclays Bank, the administrator or the Company when tickets are purchased.” No dice here for an award ticket either.

There are strict conditions for the Amex Baggage Insurance Plan.
There are strict conditions for the Amex Baggage Insurance Plan.

Here’s the other key term: Coverage can be provided for lost, stolen or damaged carry-on or checked baggage. Coverage is in excess of the Common Carrier Conveyance liability.

So we had to check on Air Berlin’s policy.

Air Berlin's lost baggage policy.
Air Berlin’s lost baggage policy is rather thin.
Air Berlin Lost Baggage Policy 
Unfortunately, there is little information on the Air Berlin website concerning lost luggage. They advise you to first contact the Lost & Found desk on arrival, where you will be asked to complete a claim form – which I am sure wold be even the most inexperienced traveler’s first move! If that does not reunite you with you bags then the next move is to contact the customer service department in Berlin and/or fax in a contact form. For luggage lost for more than five days, they advise contacting the Central Baggage Tracing Office in Schönefeld, Germany. For all the details on addresses and contact numbers, click here.
Alternatively, you can plug your information into the WorldTracer program, a computerized baggage tracing system, and hope that the wonderful world of technology can achieve what the baggage handlers couldn’t.
While the airline looks for your luggage, its policy is that in the event that checked baggage does not arrive with the passenger traveling to or from the US, Air Berlin will make every reasonable effort to return the baggage within 24 hours and compensate any reasonable expenses that result from delay in delivery. In the event that baggage is lost or destroyed, Air Berlin will reimburse any baggage fees charged for the transportation of that baggage.
It does not however detail how much compensation of expenses will be paid, or if in Eric’s case, when he was flying via Keflavik before returning back to the US, if he is still covered under this policy. In the meantime, it took about 36 hours, but his bags finally made it to his hotel in Reykjavik from the airline’s baggage-handling agency, a company called Airport Associates. That was a whole other rigamarole since we had to try each and every number listed on the company’s web site before someone picked up and then were told that his luggage was actually on a Lufthansa flight a day later from Dusseldorf.
Luckily, we asked the representative to check again, and lo and behold, instead of informing Eric by any of the contact information he had provided including his cell phone, email and the phone number of the hotel where he was staying, this rep talked to someone on the other end for about 5 minutes and found out that the luggage had already arrived at his hotel and had been downstairs for an hour or so.
Well, at least his luggage arrived, but he does still have some expenses to square away with Air Berlin, so we’ll keep you updated as to his progress. And the lesson we all learned from this is, if you book your itinerary as an award, don’t expect your credit cards to help you with lost luggage. Instead know the terms and conditions of your carrier(s) and hold them to account if something goes wrong – and don’t be afraid to be persistent.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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